Container Ship Freed From Suez Canal, World Trade Begins Again

By: NOLAN PAGE

Huge ship blocking the Suez Canal is being moved - what happens next? | New  Scientist

On Monday, March 29 a ship blocking the Suez Canal in Egypt was refloated, allowing for traffic to pass once again. The ship was initially lodged in the canal on March 23, stopping the traffic flow for 6 days. The ship’s name is Ever Given, a container ship that is a quarter of a mile long, long enough that it was able to completely obstruct the Suez Canal when it’s course was disrupted by strong winds.

An estimated 12% of all of world trade flows through the Suez Canal, making Ever Given’s position disruptive on a global scale. Immediately after the ship was stuck, tugboats rushed to the scene to try and pull the ship back on course, along with dredgers to dig up the mud and sand that the ship’s bow was lodged in, but initial efforts were unsuccessful. There was no visible progress made during the weekdays. One team working on freeing the ship stated the process could take weeks. This timetable presented a huge setback to global trade, with CNBC estimating that every hour the ship remained unmoved was holding up $400 million in trade. This cost was significant enough that some shipping companies such as 2M and MSC decided to send their ships around the Cape of Good Hope instead of waiting for the Suez to be unblocked even though this route can add weeks to a ship’s passage.

Others remained confident that the problem could be solved quickly, like Mohab Mamish, the Egyptian Advisor on seaports who stated on Thursday March 25 that traffic flow through the canal “will resume again within 48-72, maximum.” While that deadline was not quite met, it was a pleasant surprise to many in the shipping industry that the ship was freed only four days afterwards. Efforts on that Monday were aided by the full moon yielding an especially high tide. In the morning, tugboats were first able to pull the stern of the ship away from the canal’s edge. Later on in the day with the peak of high tide, the stern was pulled out of the sand and mud. This finally freed the ship after 6 days and an estimated 1 million cubic feet of mud and water excavated to help dislodge the ship. Ever Given was then towed to Great Bitter Lake, the widest part of the canal, for an inspection, but afterwards, traffic was able to flow normally through the canal again. 

With the efforts to free the ship over, debates immediately began over who would pay for the incidents, with costs initially being estimated at $12-15 million per day. The management of the Suez Canal wanted reimbursement with Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, General Osama Rabie giving a statement saying, “The Suez Canal is not at fault. We have been harmed by the incident.” Egyptian Authorities have currently decided that Ever Given’s owners must pay upwards of $1 billion to reimburse them for money lost while the ship blocked the canal as well as the cost of removing it. Ever Given will not be allowed to leave the canal until agreements are made for the cost to be paid. General Rabie stated on the matter that, “We hope for a speedy agreement. The minute they agree to compensation, the vessel will be allowed to move,” However, as of now it remains unclear whether they expect this payment from Imabari Shipbuilder, which technically owns the ship, or Evergreen, the company that operates Ever Given.

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